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Bread punch roach and skimmers through the ice on the Basingstoke Canal

February 16, 2018 at 9:31 pm

A report that a club match had produced a 10 lb winning weight, with follow up weights of roach and bream, saw me on the banks of the Basingstoke Canal this week. A bright dry day was forecast, but an overnight frost left the surface covered with a sheet of ice.

The match had been frost free and my hopes of dropping in on one of the winning pegs had been thwarted by bank to bank ice. Dragging my trolley, I walked up to a bend in the canal, where direct sunlight had still not worked its magic, so walked all the way back to the “good pegs”, where I began breaking the ice with the butt of my extended pole, scooping out enough with my landing net to fish just over the near shelf. My informant had said that the bream had been taken down the middle of the canal. No chance of that, four metres out would have to do.

By the time I was ready to fish, a few free floating pieces had been cleared and the first quarter of the canal was fishable. Being sparing with the liquidised bread feed, I dropped a small ball over the shelf and another a metre beyond. That would have to do until I got some fish in the net. With my antennae  float set just off bottom, and a 4 mm bread pellet on a fine wire size 18 hook, it took ten minutes for the first signs of a bite, rings radiating from the float bristle giving warning of a slight dip. I lifted the pole to feel resistance and swung in my first roach.

Not a bad roach for this part of the canal. I fished this part of the Basi quite often once, then good weights of roach and skimmer bream could be taken on the bread punch, but something changed, the bream disappeared and the only roach were tiny, which in turn attracted many small jack pike to feed on them.

This jack had been troubling my fish, until I put on a plug and pulled it out. They are a lot bigger these days.

A welcome skimmer bream told me that I was in the right spot and the float was soon on its way down again for a better roach.

These fish are weight builders and after a very slow start, they were beginning to queue up for the punch. I decided to keep the feed to a minimum, dropping in another 20 mm ball after 20 minutes.

Adding another metre of pole, the bites became more confident and a classic lift bite brought another skimmer to the net.

A few fish later the elastic came out, as a very nice roach flashed silver beneath the surface and I took my time guiding it into the net.

This deep round roach went 8 oz on its own, net fish outnumbering those swung in. I had begun to miss quick bites, the culprits proving to be three inch roach, that were attacking the punch bread as it fell through on the drop. After I had thrown back half a dozen of these tiny roach, a swirl in the swim scattered several across the surface. A pike had moved in. Adding two more metres of pole, I fed another ball and fished right up to the thinning ice, hooking a better roach, bringing it round away from the pike and swung it in.

This worked for two more fish, then the elastic stretched out. The pike had taken a nice roach, just after I had set the hook. This had only one outcome, whether I landed it, or not. My swim would be ruined. With little resistance from the elastic, the pike stopped, turned and swallowed the roach. Heading back to the opposite bank on the surface, it did me one favour. At least it was breaking up the ice past the middle. It was about two feet long and around 3 lb in weight, not enough to over strain my elastic, as I had come prepared for possible big bream, but the way it was stirring up the mud, there was no chance of bream now anyway. I had brought my lightweight canal net today and the pike looked too long to fit in, but got most of its body in and lifted, only for it to slip out again, spinning as it did, cutting the line. A swirl and it was gone.

I had been here before, a promising swim written off in minutes by a pike. Although only fishing for 90 minutes, I considered packing up. I could move, but that would mean going through the process of breaking the ice again, although it was much thinner now. It was a sunny day, I would start again. There was an identical rig on the winder. It took only minutes to swap over. The other rig had been cut at the loop of the hook link. That roach was well down the pike’s gullet. Maybe he’d had his fill for the day.

I fed a couple of balls of bread to the middle, cast out and rested my pole. Time to try those ham and cheese sandwiches, that I had watched my wife make for me this morning. The tea was still hot from my flask. A kingfisher flew along the canal. Bike riders and runners passed behind me. Dog walkers asked if I had caught anything. I told them of the pike. Life wasn’t too bad.

The float sank. Another small skimmer. It had been 30 minutes since the skirmish with the pike, but I whizzed the pole back as quickly as possible. Another bite, another skimmer, this one bigger. Lost it. Should have taken my time. Another small ball went in to compensate. A couple of smaller roach followed. Lost the skimmers? The float sank again, this time a decent roach. Wham! The pike struck again. I pulled the pole round hard for a break. The pike had let go. The roach panicked on the surface and I swung it in.

The jaw marks from the pike were visible, but it had let go leaving missing scales and minimal damage. This was the decider for me. I would pack up. In the past I have set up a spinning rod to combat the pike, but this time left it behind.

I took my time putting the gear away, chatting to anyone that asked of my day. A couple from Zimbabwe got the full treatment, including a quick teach in on fishing the bread punch.

That was my lot for three hours, twenty fish for just under 3 lbs, including some quality roach. It could have been so much more without Mr Toothy.

Winter bread punch endurance test

February 8, 2018 at 8:13 pm

In the week that the BBC brought online their latest all singing, all dancing weather forecasting software, they got it all wrong for friend Peter and I, when we fished our local Jeane’s Pond at Braybrooke Park today. They predicted a dry sunny start and warmer temperatures. What did we get? The pond covered by ice when we arrived, then rain as we tackled up, that was on and off until lunchtime, with a chill wind gusting across the water all day.

My original plan had been to fish the swim above, but found it iced over, so set up on the opposite side of the outcrop, where there was clear water, but the wind was blowing in my face. Peter had settled into a swim he had fished the week before, as it was in the lee of buildings, but he was also hoping for a few of the big rudd that helped him to a 6 lb finishing weight on that occasion.

Peter was snug under his brolley, while I faced the storm, trying to cope with the wind that was blowing my float about. I had fed a couple of balls of liquidised bread just beyond the drop off into the deeper water, but the wind was causing a drift that was bringing my rig back toward me, the shallow shelf littered with twigs and branches blown from the adjacent trees. Every cast in, the float dragged the hook into these underwater obstacles and I was soon building up a collection on the bank. When the wind dropped, the float stood still and I would get a bite.

Peter had already caught a small roach, but my first was a better than average size and I took advantage of the calmer conditions to swing a few in before the wind picked up again. A 4 mm bread punch was doing the damage, missing a few bites on the 5 mm to an 18 hook.

I was still picking off the occasional roach, but conditions continued to worsen and I considered moving round out of the wind next to Peter. Getting up to look at my preferred swim, I saw that the wind was breaking up the ice, blowing it into the far corner. With my jacket hood up, this peg would be easier to fish, as the wind would be on my back and the float rig downwind, being easier to control.

My float is in there somewhere! Holding the float back against the drift, a few small balls of bread concentrated the bites into a tight area and I was catching again.

By 2 pm Peter had had enough. Although out of the main force of the wind, he was freezing with cold hands and knocking knees. I went round to see what he had caught on the maggot, four nice rudd and a roach for just over a pound in total.

The bread punch was obviously doing better than the maggot today, having counted over 30 roach into my net already and I walked back to my peg determined to stick it out for another hour.


Topping up with some more bread crumb, I put in another couple of balls, allowing the bait to fall through the cloud and picking up a nice roach on the drop.

Fishing just off the bottom in four feet of water, the bites were slow to develope, with the odd dip of the float an indication that the tip was about to steadily sink beneath the surface.

The bites were still coming, when I pulled in for the last time at 3 pm, but a light drizzle of rain was threatening to prove the forecasters right at last and was keen to get away before the main downpour.

An all roach bag of over four pounds was my lot for the day, but not enough to keep the cold at bay.

Trout stream work party gets results

February 4, 2018 at 5:49 pm

The second work party of the year on my syndicate trout stream dawned with steady rain and  I expected a text saying that it had been cancelled, but no message meant that a few hardy souls would be turning out to continue the work started a month before. Then we had cleared the banks through a copse, due to the farmer placing an electrified fence along the pasture side of the river, which made it impossible to fish.

I arrived to find empty cars in the farmyard and the sound of a distant chainsaw. It was lashing down with rain, but in for a penny, in for a pound, I set off downstream in search of company. As usual it was the same old faces that had turned out, the chainsaw being used to supply sturdy poles to build a berm that would speed up the flow.

Others were busy pounding stakes deep into the riverbed to support the lateral poles, which were then to be wired in place.

Having the title of chief firestarter, I was given a sack with a few sheets of paper, to get a fire going. On previous work parties, I had been given a box of matches with only one match, but today with no letup in the rain, they had taken pity on me and included a full box. Searching out a some dead twigs I broke them down to form a small pyramid above the paper, which was getting soaked by the second, but the gods were with me and after a few false starts the twigs began to burn. As branches were felled, a steady supply of fuel for the fire arrived, keeping two of us busy for the morning. Hot work in more ways than one.

The new berm raised the water level above it by about a foot, while creating a fast run below that would keep the gravel free from silt.

On the opposite bank, branches were trodden in, then wired down above the berm, where the main flow follows the bend, to act as a silt trap.

With eight weeks to go before the start of the trout fishing season, more river improvement work is planned, hopefully on warmer, drier days.




Weihrauch HW100 Sport add on IR Nitesite Viper Review

February 1, 2018 at 5:49 pm

Having flirted with night vision using a modified Sony Handycam with Nightshot and an IR torch on my Webley Viper .22 PCP, I had found that the short torch battery life was a limiting factor, as the power went down, so did the range and image on the handycam screen. 10 minutes between battery changes was about the limit. It worked well for close range rats and pigeons in the farmer’s barn, but fumbling with fresh batteries in the dark had its limits.

Occasional visits to shooting forums had highlighted a few home grown night vision systems, but the limiting factor had always been the house brick sized battery needed to run the things. Not needing to shoot after dark, until last year, when I was given permission to shoot rabbits over an 80 acre sports ground, I had put the night vision on hold. Brief low light visits had brought results, but it was time to revisit the forums to check up on the latest technology.

At last lithium batteries were being used and good reviews saw me reaching for the credit card to buy a NiteSite Viper scope add on infrared unit, which arrived in a smart shock proof case.

This is the least expensive and smallest unit with a specified range of 100 metres, more than enough for my Weihrauch HW100 Sport .22 PCP airifle, although I can see it being pressed into use with my other rifles, Career 707 FAC air, .22 semi auto Magtech and .17 HMR. More power is available at a cost, the Wolf having a quoted range of 300 yards and 500 yards for the Eagle models.

Opening up the box all the components are well protected, the idea being that the box will travel to the permission, where the parts will be assembled on site. Central in the case are two rubber sleeves to suit different sizes of scope eyepieces. Top right is the IR camera, with locations for the power jack and the screen feed. The camera has an on/off push button switch, which is silent in operation. No clicks to alert a rabbit in the dark. Bottom right is the IR torch and 3 1/2 inch screen unit. Bottom left is the lightweight lithium battery. This box housed the previous battery, a foam rubber filler taking up the now defunct space. Top left is a three pin UK mains adaptor for charging the battery, which has a charge life of over seven hours. A two pin plug is also included in the kit. Alongside the camera are two mounts for the torch/screen unit, one for a 25 mm scope tube and the other a 30 mm. With the mounts is an anti recoil bracket to firmly locate the screen unit.

Assembly onto the rifle literally takes a couple of minutes. My scope has a 25 mm tube, so the appropriate screen mount was clipped over the tube, having removed the clamp screw first. The anti recoil clip is then positioned over the mount with its slot covering the clamp screw hole.The screen unit slides into the groove at the top of the mount, the clamp screw refitted and the anti recoil clip pulled up to lock the screen. The serrated clamp nut can now be screwed on to tighten the clamp. It sounds complicated, but takes longer to say than do.

Next select the rubber sleeve that suits your scope eyepiece. This slides on up to a reduction, which positions the sleeve ready for the camera to slide in from the other end. Over the sleeve fit the battery pack, holding it in place with its velcro strap. With the camera fully home, plug in the lead from the screen and that from the battery. They are male and female connections, so fool proof. Switch on the screen and camera to check the focus of the cross hairs on the screen.

The focus of the camera is adjusted with the index finger pushing onto the rough surface of the lens holder, which is marked white to allow judgment of rotation of the holder. Rotating the lens moves it in and out allowing fine adjustments of the focal length to the scope eye piece. Each time the lens is adjusted, it is a case of pushing it back fully home in the sleeve to view the cross hairs on the screen.

With the IR torch turned fully anticlockwise in the off position with the knob at the top of the screen, for daylight use, this is the view of the cross hairs on my scope. With the focal length set at the lens, the camera can be removed and replaced without the need to reset the focus.

Weighing in at 14 oz fitted, the unit sits easily on the scope without feeling bulky. Having used a red dot scope in the past, the heads up shooting position is not difficult to master, giving a similar sensation to using a games console. Place the cross hairs on the target and squeeze the trigger.

The business end. There is a warning in the instructions not to look into the torch, when the unit is switched on, as serious damage to your eyes can be the result. Good practice would be to always turn the knob to the daylight position when in the field, adjusting the intensity to the range that you are shooting.

Due to the January weather of late, storms, rain, frost and snow, I have yet to test the NiteSite Viper in the field, but sighting down my 40 yard rear garden in pitch black conditions, I was amazed at the clear image, almost jumping out of my skin, when the neighbour’s cat emerged from behind a bush, its eyes glowing like those of a demon, as it wandered up the path toward me.

Bread punch roach beat off the maggot challenge

January 26, 2018 at 12:51 am

George, the latest storm to strike the UK, lashed the southern counties with relentless rain this week, keeping me busy with household chores and giving me the opportunity to top up my supply of liquidised bread, ready for a session on the bread punch against two of my fishing pals, who would be fishing the waggler and maggot on my local pond.

Arriving at 10 am, I found my friend Peter already in “the Flyer” peg 13 and exmatchteam mate John in Peg 16, his favourite. I had hoped that they would have chosen swims further round the pond to allow us to fish alongside each other, but I was happy to slot in next to John at peg 17. Although we all want to beat each other, these are social occasions and being close enough for a bit of banter is what it is all about.

Both fishing out on the waggler with maggot feed, the two early birds had failed to get a bite yet and I was quietly confident that once I had put in a couple of balls of liquidised bread, the roach would come to the punch. After what seemed an age, but was only minutes, my pole float tip radiated tell tale rings, then held down slightly without going under. I was soon playing my first fish, a reasonable punch roach. It was icy to the touch.

Bite now followed bite in rapid succession and the other two were protesting as I vocally counted them into my net. “Look he’s got another one!” Peter broke the maggot drowners duck, when his rod bent into an 8 oz roach, which he lifted from the water, the low winter sun flashing on its silver flanks, straight into his hand. I was still catching steadily, many of my fish in the 2 to 3 oz range, with the occasional better roach.

John was now leaning back into good roach, which cheered him up. At one time he had psyched himself out. Not getting a bite at any method he tried, while I was into a rhythm; cast out float, watch it cock and sink, strike and swing it in every minute. With John concentrating on his long range waggler tactics, regular feed was now bringing bites and fish, while Peter continued to swing in some lovely roach. I was not bothered, I was well ahead on fish and weight, enjoying myself demonstrating the superiority of the punch over maggot on a hard day. John sang a ditty “They call him the Breadman”. Oh how we laughed!

I had been catching off the end of my top two sections of pole on the drop off into deeper water, when the fish switched off. Adding depth and two more metres of pole, I cast over another ball of feed and had a bite first cast. They had moved out. A decent roach suggested the reason for the fish switching off.

It had been mauled by a pike. Somehow the roach had escaped certain death, teeth marks showing at least two attempts to clamp it in a pike’s toothy jaws. Despite this roach, I continued to fill my net, until a massive swirl to my right caught my attention in time to watch a roach snatched from the surface as it tried to escape. No bites again. By casting around the swim I continued to take the odd fish. They were spooked and so was I, lifting my fish clear of the water quickly to avoid tempting the pike to strike again. The pike moved along to John’s swim, then on to Peter, who also saw it. My inside line was still dead and fed further out, being rewarded with my best roach of the day.

The wind had increased, causing a drift to sweep the float round to my right and I gave up on the outside line, feeding to the shelf, where I could hold back on the float. I was still taking fish in in fits and starts, ringing the changes on depth to keep them coming, including my only rudd.

As the sun passed behind the trees, the temperature dropped rapidly, driven on by the wind and we decided to pack up early, spurred on by a brief shower of rain. I had hoped for a bumper session, following a week of mild weather, but the previous day of heavy rain had chilled the pond resulting in some indifferent bites and missed fish for all three of us. I had managed about seventy fish for just over five pounds, well down on my expectations.

A last gasp quality roach boosted John’s net to four pounds, his best roach being about 10 oz.

Peter had managed to put a similar bag of good roach together for about three and a half pounds. Putting our gear away, the sun came out again, but we’d had our fill for one day, along with a few laughs at each other’s expense. Better luck next time.



Manningford Trout Fishery winter rainbows

January 18, 2018 at 1:51 pm

A dusting of over night snow was thawing, as my friend Peter and I arrived at Manningford Trout Fishery this week. Tucked away in a quiet part of Wiltshire close to the village of Pewsey with its statue of Alfred the Great and Anglo Saxon heritage, it is better to stop and ask a local of the fishery’s whereabouts, than rely on your Sat Nav. Fed by the upper reaches of the famous Hampshire Avon, there are two lakes, Squires stocked with table size rainbows and Manor with larger fish, where we intended to fish.

Tackling up in the carpark, we sheltered in the lee of the boot lid as freezing gusts blasted across the lake, 5 C temperature reduced to 2 by the wind chill factor, the day chosen as the best of a bad bunch of forecasts. Having caught well on unweighted white lures in similar conditions at Latimer Fishery before Christmas, we opted for these to start, a home tied white chenille with a white marabou wing for me and a White Fritz with a hint of green for Peter.

Walking round to cast across the wind at the first platform, Peter was into a fish first cast before I had gathered up my tackle and I watched him land a deep clean rainbow of about 2 lb. Slotting in twenty yards further round, a rapid take took me by surprise on my first cast. Looking back at Peter he was into another fish, which he lost. A slow retrieve brought a solid take and I struck into a very good rainbow that broke the surface, before steaming off down the lake into the wind. A tumbling fight followed, seeing the deep fish briefly again close to before the line went slack. It had come off. My line was festooned with weed and called to Peter that I was moving round to find deeper water. Keeper? No deeper! The wind was snatching my words away.

Opposite an island there was some relief, trees behind diluting some of the gusts, while the main force of the wind was carrying from left to right, ideal for a right handed fly caster. Pushing the lure close to the island, a dead slow retrieve brought a response of some sort most casts, a steady straightening of the line being met by solid resistance at last and I was in once more, this time a smaller rainbow fighting hard to the net. This 2 lb 6 oz rainbow was a credit to the on site fish farm, with a thick shoulder and full tail.

Peter now had his second fish after several false alarms and now moved up twenty yards downwind, also experiencing short takes. I was into another nice rainbow, bringing it near to the bank I could see the lure in the tip of its nose. Close to the net it tumbled and the hook came out. This was the start of a frustrating half hour, with three more lost at the net. Peter had landed number three and was walking back to the clubhouse, when I hooked another which broke the surface. He gave a cheer. It came off again! There was definitely a hook there. I stopped fishing and washed down a sandwich with cups of hot calming tea.

Having weighed in his fish, Peter returned to the bank to assist two novice fly fishers, who had asked for advice earlier. One was a fly fishing virgin, what a day to learn to cast! They both managed a fish apiece before we left.

A pair of anglers walked by on their way back to the clubhouse, they each had a good fish in their bag, the best being 5 lb 8 oz, the other 3 lb 8 oz. They had been fishing Blue Flash Damsel lures stripped back fast. This can be hard work and I preferred a lighter lure with a slow retrieve, which worked for me, all I needed was to be able to get them in the net. The line tightened again and I struck hard, pulling the fish to the surface. I was not going to lose this one, letting the rod take the full force of the runs, not relaxing until the rainbow was in the net. This very silver fish weighed in at 2 lb 8 oz.

With Peter busy on his tuition duties, I walked down to the River Avon running behind the lake for a look. On my last visit to Manningford the banks had been overgrown, but now overhead trees have been trimmed and the right hand bank cleared.

This is also available as a catch and release beat, holding wild brown trout and grayling, while in season an additional stock of browns will be introduced.

This was a deep run, ideal for big grayling and trout alike. Well worth a visit later in the year with my 7 ft 3 weight rod.

Returning home, the trout were cleaned ready for the freezer, but the sight of rich red flesh put one of the rainbows on the menu for the following day.

Bread punch roach quantity tops maggot quality

January 13, 2018 at 6:22 pm

My old friend Peter suggested a laid back side by side fishing session this week, just like we used to when we were kids on the local canal. That once free canal is now controlled by a large fishing club with no day tickets available, but both being senior members of Braybrooke Community Fishing Club, we arranged to meet this morning, fishing 20 feet apart, he in peg 1 and myself in peg 2 at Jeane’s Pond.

Although the temperature was only 6 degrees Centigrade, there was no wind and with sunshine forecast to arrive by noon, we looked forward to a pleasant few hours of fishing. Peter is a very good all round angler, but a match fisher he is not and I thought that it would be interesting to see how his old skool tactics fared against the pole with bread punch.

Peter was using rod and line with a self cocking waggler, and light shot down to a size 12 hook with double red maggot, while I set up the pole rig that I had fished through the ice with at the Fur and Feather match before Christmas. This was a 14 g carbon stemmed antennae float, shotted to 6 mm of the bristle, to a size 18 hook.

Putting in a small ball of liquidised bread just over the shelf into four feet of water, I cast in with a 4 mm pellet of punched bread and waited for a sign of a bite. Nothing happened for a couple of minutes, then tell tale rings radiated out from the bristle, before it slowly sank below the surface. A nice roach big enough to net was a good sign, although the fact that it felt ice cold was not. The hook was barely in the skin of the lip and dropped out in the landing net.

Bites were coming with every cast now, swinging most roach to hand with only the top two sections of pole needed to reach the fish. Many were under an ounce, but better fish continued to fill my keepnet.

Pete’s waggler tip stood out like a beacon 25mm clear of the surface, but it dipped when something showed interest, then sank from view. That something put a bend in the rod and his landing net went out for the first time for a six ounce roach. Just a fluke? No, the float went down again and an eight ounce roach fought to the net. I had thought that he would struggle with his double red maggots on a size 12 hook, but he was proving me wrong. My float sank again and the net came out for another nice roach.

It began to rain, not spots, but that incessant heavy drizzle that hisses on the surface of the pond, while soaking everything in minutes. Pete dragged his umbrella from its holdall, while I reached behind me for my wax cotton jacket. So much for sunshine by lunchtime. Pete made himself comfortable, somehow squeezing his six foot plus frame beneath the confines of the umbrella, positioning his fishing chair in the optimum position and sitting back with a self satisfied smile, while I struggled into the stiff jacket, pulling the hood up over my head. With the jacket left open at the front, I was able to keep the bread from the rain by spreading it over the bait tray.

The bites had slowed for me on the inside line, possibly due to the maggots being fed by Pete only yards away and I fed a ball of bread out further, while adding another length to the pole. This increased my catch rate again, but Pete continued with a steady delivery of quality roach to his net. If I had been on my own, I would have been content to fish at this range, until it had been fished out, but old rivalries die hard and adding another length of pole, while increasing the depth of the float, I went out in search of better fish.

Casting out over a ball of fresh bread crumbs, the float settled and continued down. The deep body and bright red fins of a rudd were a welcome sight, netting this fish to be sure.

We considered packing up due to the rain, but decided to continue as we dislike packing up in the rain, when all the tackle is put away wet. The fish didn’t mind the rain, they were wet already and still feeding, so we carried on. I lost a big rudd, when a pole section would not come apart smoothly due to the wet, giving slack and allowing the hook to slip free. I dropped another ball over the area to hold the shoal and fished on, taking another decent roach.

Pete had now moved out into the deeper water, finding a big roach of around 12 oz and I answered with another rudd.

The efficiency of the pole and ease that fish take the punch bread, saw me taking ten fish to Pete’s one, although his one fish often matched the weight of my ten. I pressed on with my small hook and bait combination, his big hook and bait allowed the better fish time to find the bait, while mine was consumed by the nearest and greediest.

Each punch represents a fish, the 4 mm giving more positive bites than the 5 mm. Next time out I will try a size 14 hook with 6 and 7 mm punches to see if the fish get bigger.

By 3 pm the rain had stopped so we took the chance to pack up and weigh our catches. Pete had about 15 quality roach and rudd for 4 lb.

In contrast I had over a hundred red fins for 6 lb. A good result on a cold wet day filled with banter and reminiscence.


Bread punch crucian carp defy the storm

January 4, 2018 at 4:45 pm

Plans to fish my local river were put on the back burner, when the latest weather system to hit the UK, storm Dylan blasting through at 70 mph bringing torrential rain and sleet that pushed up the water levels beyond the banks. Hot on its heels came storm Eleanor dumping more heavy down falls over night. The forecasters had predicted a dry, but windy day to follow and while my wife had trotted off to the January Sales, I loaded up my fishing trolley for the half mile walk down to my very local pond.

The pond is termed a balance pond, its function being to absorb any excess flood water flowing down the stream that runs into it. The stream was close to its banks and I could hear the rush of water as I neared the pond. Drowning this out was the drone of wind through branches and as I began to walk the bankside path, a powerful icy gust stopped me in my tracks. The pond was being frothed up by the unrelenting wind, the only clear spot being in the lee of a giant oak surrounded by a tangle of brambles, the area having a cosy swim down out of the wind. Although well wrapped up against the cold, with thermals and a wax cotton jacket, the thought passed through my mind, “Why do I put myself through this?”

The wind was roaring through a gap in the trees to my right, causing a back eddy of air to whip up mini whirlwinds in front of me. This was the first time that I had fished this swim, as it has a stump sticking up from the bottom 20 metres out, providing an obvious escape route for a running carp.

Crucian carp were my target fish today and I tipped enough coarse ground bread crumb into the bait tray for a few hour’s fishing, lightly squeezing up three egg sized balls and feeding a line toward the stump at 7, 8 and 9 metres. The pond is very shallow and I set my small waggler float at 500 mm to fish just off bottom, the size 16 hook carrying a 5 mm punched pellet of bread.

The swirling wind made it difficult to swing the bait out, but adding another length of pole made it impossible to hold straight, when the wind cranked up to its full strength, moaning through the trees like a siren sending out an alarm. Looking up at the heavy boughs of oak above me, I wondered if I could take cover should one snap free. Winds over 70 mph were recorded close to my pond today and I was right to worry.

Among the ripples, the bright yellow tip of my float continued to blink on and off in the waves, then it stayed down. A lift saw a tiny rudd swung to my hand. At least something was biting today.

This rudd got the ball rolling. Too small for my net it went back in. Better fish followed on each cast.

An on, off bite met solid resistance from a hard fighting crucian, my extended net just reaching to the edge of the rushes to scoop it to safety. At home, a landing net handle 500 mm longer, a present from my wife at Christmas, sits in my rod bag. Travelling light today, I had grabbed a pole and my old handle.

Next cast saw the line speeding toward the stump as a common carp raced away with the bread. Side strain let the elastic do all the work and the fish turned back to the margins, holding it away until it rolled on the surface. Another good fish in the net.

The float was away again, this time a much larger rudd was pulling out the elastic.

These crucian carp have grown steadily in the pond, fish of this size now the norm.

The elastic zoomed out again as another common made for the stump, before being brought under control. The commons had come out to play.

The next cast brought disaster, as another common fought for freedom, finding a sunken log in which to transfer the hook, the line going solid. Pulling for a break, the elastic stretched out and the log moved toward me slowly, until it was beneath the rushes in front of me. At full stretch I could not get the landing net beneath it, eventually giving up and breaking the hook link.

Putting out a couple more balls of bread, I tied on another another hook link. Time for a cup of tea and a sandwich. The wind had veered round to the south, blowing across the front of me, lifting dead leaves from the ground onto the pond to make casting pot luck. I hooked my keepnet, the reeds in front of me and leaves on the surface. The session was becoming chaotic. Whenever the float landed in clear water, it was under again and another crucian carp was in the net.

Small heavily coloured crucians had moved onto the feed, these fish content to sit sucking the bait, rarely moving off with it, the odd dip of the float the only indication, but each lift of the pole saw another on the line.

It was all smaller crucians now, plus the occasional rudd for variety and with conditions worsening, I set my finish time for 3:30. My flask of hot tea was empty and I was looking forward to a fresh hot cup at home, when the float buried and I lifted into the best common carp of the day. The elastic was out again, as a massive gust pulled the pole round against the fish, finding myself fighting the wind and the carp at one time. The common stayed on, despite the lack of control and as it was netted, I decided to pack up before the four hours were up. It had been hard work fighting the elements and the fish.

Once again the bread punch had shown its versatility, the 5 mm punch surprisingly attracting bigger fish than the 6 mm. Weighing up the net at the end, the scales hit the 14 lb limit. There may have been 20 lb there, but it was not important. I’d survived a battering and wanted to go home.

Walking back up the hill to my home, I passed two workmen pavioring a driveway. “Been fishing in this weather? We have to work out here, what’s your excuse!” I couldn’t answer, all I could think of was that hot cup of tea.

Festive pheasant pasties with sweet potato

December 23, 2017 at 9:10 pm

Gifted three brace of pheasants by a shooting friend, I occupied one end of the kitchen, while my wife was busy at the other end. The birds appeared to have run the gauntlet of several guns before hitting the deck and with several entry wounds in each, they were unsuitable for roasting, but ideal candidates for some pheasant pasties, alongside more of my popular pheasant burgers with apricots. With only days before Christmas, my wife had her sausage roll and mince pie production line in progress, getting ready for the annual influx of family to our home. This gave me the idea to try pasties with a savoury twist, by adding spicy mincemeat with a dash of whisky. Instead of traditional swede, I also substituted sweet potato, giving a touch of the exotic to a humble pastie.

The end result, a sweet tasting pasty more suited to accompany the after dinner nibbles and mince pies, than the main course. Offered up warm and sliced, they were the perfect match for late evening mulled wine. Hope there are some left for the New Year Bash.


600 g Minced Pheasant pieces (Coarse Blade)

200 g Sausage meat

400 g Potato, diced into 10 mm cubes

400 g Sweet Potato, diced into 10 mm cubes

200 g Red Onion, coarsely chopped

1 Rosemary sprig, stripped and chopped

3 tbs Mincemeat

3 tbs Whisky (Blended)

250 g Butter

Salt and Black Pepper to taste

2 packs Short Crust Pastry

1 Egg, beaten


Cut the sausage meat into rough 20 mm cubes and add to the pheasant strips as they are minced to allow an even blend in a large bowl. Stir the vegetables into the bowl and sprinkle over the rosemary, followed by the seasoning. Scoop out the mincemeat from the jar into the mix, trying to get an even spread of the fruit throughout. Last but not least, add the three tablespoons of whisky, making sure to stir up from the bottom to avoid waste! Cover the bowl with cling film to infuse for at least an hour in the fridge. If making up your own pastry, this is good time to do so, also allowing time for the pastry to chill in the fridge.

Roll out the pastry into 3 mm thick squares and place a dessert plate over as a guide, cutting out a 170 mm diameter disc. Using a brush, paint round the upper outer face with the egg approximately 25 mm wide. Scoop out about two tablespoons of the meat / veg mix into the centre of the disc, piling up into a heap, adding a knob of butter to the top. Take two opposing sides of the disc and bring them up to meet above the centre, pinching them together between fingers and thumbs, working back down to the ends, creating a long oval. Pinching the thumb between two fingers of the same hand, go back over the join to form the traditional pasty zig zag pattern over the top. Place on a baking tray ready to cook at 180C for 50 minutes, or freeze, painting over the outside with the egg wash to give a gloss to the finished pasty.

An afternoon’s work in the kitchen made the most of what is now considered an often unwanted by product of organised game shooting.




Roach fishing through the ice

December 17, 2017 at 4:23 pm

The alarm went at 7 am. It was still dark. Out of the window the grass was white with frost. I had organised a Fur and Feather fishing match with my local club today and had to attend whatever the weather. Distant memories of the feelings of dread, having to fish winter leagues on similar frozen mornings with my old matchteam, came flooding back. It was going to be hard.

Scraping ice from the windscreen, I remembered long drives in the dark to distant canals; at least this would be a short hop to my local pond. A hundred yards from home I stopped behind a car at the exit of my housing estate, blocking its way was another that had gone straight on at the roundabout. The road was like sheet ice. When we all got going again, my wheels slid on the slope.

It was no surprise to find the pond like a skating rink, the club chairman already busy with a grappling hook on a rope smashing through the frozen surface at each swim. A 30 minute delay was agreed and after the draw for the numbered pegs, we made our way to our swims to begin netting out the broken ice.

With the match reduced to three hours, I was prepared to struggle for bites, setting up a canal rig on the pole with a fine wire long shank size 20 barbless hook to fish small 3 and 4 mm bread punches, just off bottom. Plumbing the depth there was a drop off close to the bank, which allowed me to fish with only the top two joints, swinging the rig out to the ice and dragging it back to fall off the edge. A couple of tiny balls of finely liquidised bread placed close to the ice went in to start things off and I waited.

With the float bristle shotted to sit 6 mm above the surface, it sat there for five minutes, before a slight tremble of the float was followed by a slow sink of a few millimetres. I struck and there was resistance on the line, the elastic pulling from the tip. I netted my first roach.

Each time I put the rig out, the tremble and slow sink was repeated. I had six roach before the first of my competitors, the club chairman, swung in a tiny roach. I was still catching fish and was confident enough to put in another small ball of feed, also seeding a dozen casters at the edge of the ice for later.

My main rival was John the chairman, who has fished the pond since a child, going on in later life to be an accomplished match angler. I was catching more fish, but his were bigger. The 3 mm punch was giving better bites and after two hours there were 28 fish in my net. I put on a caster, dropping in over the seeded area. The float went straight down and I was playing another nettable roach.

Great, the roach were on the caster. No other bites in the next five minutes saw me switch back to the bread. Putting in another half dozen casters, I pulled out a piece of compressed rolled punch bread to give a more hookable 3 mm pellet. The bites continued, but I began to miss them, hitting one in five. John on the bank opposite had netted a good roach worth a dozen of mine. I went back on the caster and hooked another net roach.

I needed a lot more of these, but depite a few dips of the float, no more came on the caster. I was still missing bites with the rolled bread and realised too late, that it was too hard on the hook for the fish to take into their mouths. They could pull the float under, but the hook would not set. Getting out a fresh slice segmant, with only minutes to spare, I put another half dozen small roach in my net before time was called.

Three hours of hard work for 1 lb 13 oz on the scales was only enough for second place for me, the winner being John the club chairman, who had also fished the bread punch and caster, finding some better roach toward the end for a 2 lb 15 oz total. There was a tie for third with 14 oz.

Before the match it had been suggested that we draw lots for the seasonal prizes and go back home to our beds, but all caught something, with prizes for all.

The origin of the Fur and Feather match was a contest at Christmas fishing for meat prizes in harder times, when a voucher at the local butchers shop could be redeemed for a turkey, or a ham. Now days a bottle of whiskey, or a box of chocolates are a welcome substitution.